As we mark the 15th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, take a moment to look at your right shoulder. Specifically, look at the flag waving atop your uniform sash or vest.
The US flag was not part of the official Girl Scout uniform until after 9/11. Even today, the flag technically is optional, although most girls wear it.
The straight flag was introduced in the 2002 catalog, although no girl pictured in the catalog was wearing one. The wavy flag was introduced in 2008.
GSUSA also introduced three new badges that emphasized flag etiquette, history, and patriotism: Wave the Flag for Brownies, United We Stand for Juniors, and American Patriotism for Cadettes and Seniors.
wave the flag
united we stand
As troops form and begin meeting this fall, take the opportunity to explain the importance of that small flag on her shoulder.
What did it take to earn a Golden Eaglet, Girl Scouting’s highest honor from 1918 to 1939?
The requirements were revised several times, but the 1920 Handbook had essentially two:
Earn 21 proficiency badges. Girls chose 15 from a list of 17 badges; the other six were their choice. (One required badge was Laundress!)
Earn the Medal of Merit (1922-1926) or a Letter of Commendation (1926-1931). These awards were meant to attest to a girl’s attitude and character, highly subjective requirements indeed.
Instead of searching various musty handbooks, let’s look at an actual application from Virginia Hammerley of Washington, DC:
Unlike today’s Gold Award, there was no time-defined project to conduct.
Applications were then submitted to the National Standards Committee for review. Virginia received her Golden Eaglet in May 1930. (Second from left)
Although more than 10,000 girls were awarded the Golden Eaglet, quite a few were turned down. That led to complaints about the rather fuzzy requirements. How could strangers in New York City fairly evaluate the character of girls in California or anywhere in between?
According to the Girl Scout Collector’s Guide, “There were constant complaints about applications that were questioned or refused by [the Standards] Committee.” (That NEVER happens with today’s Gold Award process.)
The Girl Scout Program Study completed in 1937 recommended that the Golden Eaglet be discontinued, due to “the restrictions it imposes on the girls and the trouble it engenders in the communities.”
On Sunday, June 26, the Nation’s Capital Archives & History Program Center in Frederick, Maryland, opened its doors to the public.
The Center’s grand opening was September 19, 2015, and programs are held there for troops on the 3rd Saturday and Sunday each month. Otherwise, the all-volunteer-operated center is open by appointment only.
We are re-evaluating hours and program opportunities for the 2016-2017 Girl Scout year and hope to have more drop-in days. We are also planning a few training classes for adult volunteers.
I was especially happy to finally meet fellow Girl Scout Historian Sandy Dent in person. She’s with the Central Maryland council, and we’ve been Facebook friends for years. Most of the photos here are hers. (Thanks Sandy!)
One guest–and now a new committee member–had several questions about former camps. She also shared memories of wading at camps in the 1960s. That reminded me of one of the most treasured items in our collection, the Murray Camp Scroll. Naturally, I had to pull it out.
The scroll is the 1960 Camp Committee report, but rendered in a truly unique fashion. The scroll is about 80 feet long and was donated by the family of Ann Murray, a former Camp Committee chair. Isn’t it amazing?
Archives and History Committee members LOVE to share our collection. If you haven’t been able to schedule a visit yet, contact me (firstname.lastname@example.org), we’ll try to work something out.
GSUSA recently announced the new Girls’ Choice outdoor-themed badges that will be available this fall. They are: Outdoor Adventure (Brownie), Horseback Riding (Junior), Archery (Cadette), Paddling (Senior), and Ultimate Recreation Challenge (Ambassador).
The results made me wonder what were the most popular badges of the past?
I used the sales figures reported in the 2005 edition of the Girl Scout Collector’s Guide by Mary Degenhardt and Judith Kirsch to find out. (I assume those numbers only go to 2004, and the book has not been updated.) The results are grouped into the Worlds to Explore Era (1980-1999) and post-Worlds to Explore, when the border colors changed but most of the designs did not.
As I’ve previously written, for Cadettes between 1963 and 1980, the clear winner was Social Dancer. Juniors in the same period, went for Troop Camper followed closely by Cook.
Brownie Try-Its were introduced in 1986 with 15 awards. They program was a huge hit, so additional Try-Its were added in 1989, 1993, and 1997. That makes it hard to compare overall totals, since some were available for more years than others. (Some names changed along the way, too.)
The top five were Girl Scout Ways (5.8 million), Playing Around the World (4.2 million), Food Fun/Make It, Eat It (3.8 million), Making Music (3.6 million), and Dance/Dancercize (3.6 million). The top outdoor-themed Try-It ranked seventh: Outdoor Fun/Eco-Explorer, with 3.2 million.
The Worlds to Explore program, introduced in 1980, divided badges into five categories. Badges for each category had a specific border color: Arts (purple), Out-of-Doors (yellow), People (blue), Today and Tomorrow (orange), and Well-Being (red). Four of the top five Junior badges were from the World of the Out-of-Doors:
The all-time favorite of Juniors in the 1980s and 1990s was First Aid, with nearly 3 million sold. Followed close behind were Troop Camper (2.9 million; the design changed in 1990); Horse Lover (1.8 million), Swimming (1.4 million), and Wildlife (1.4 million).
Cadettes & Seniors: 1980-2004
Cadettes and Seniors were a remarkably consistent group, with nearly identical results in both time periods.
Under Worlds to Explore (1980-1996), teens chose Fashion, Fitness, and Makeup (301,391; it had a purple border its first year), Creative Cooking (262,163), Camping (204,851), Games (167,056), and Child Care (160,052).
In the late 1990s and early 2000s, the favorites were Cookies and Dough (153,989), Creative Cooking (111,638), From Fitness to Fashion (97,469), Camping (93,923), and Child Care (86,509).
Juniors of the early twenty-first century were evidently a patriotic group, interested in good grooming, and still happy to go camping.
Top selling Junior badges were Cookie Connection (290,165), Looking Your Best (198,647), Girl Scouting in the USA (197,634), United We Stand (186,761), and Camp Together (171,069). Past favorites remained popular, including First Aid (6th), Horse Fan (11th), Outdoor Fun (12th), and Outdoor Cook (13th).
I was surprised at how popular United We Stand was. It was part of the trio of badges, including Wave the Flag for Brownies and American Patriotism for Cadettes and Seniors, issued following the 9/11 terrorist attacks. These three were not included in the handbooks; leaders had to download the requirements themselves.
Brownies at the turn of the century also stuck with some favorite topics, including Cookies Count (1.6 million), Girl Scout Ways (1.55 million), Manners (1.2 million), Art to Wear (1.17 million), and Caring and Sharing (1.08 million)..
Cookie-themed awarded topped all three post-Worlds to Explore badge categories.
Top of the Charts
Drumroll, please, the most popular Girl Scout badges between 1963 and 2004 were:
Of course, any mention of official Girl Scout products inevitably leads to complaints that the handbooks, badges, etc. cost too much. I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that I have no problem paying for Girl Scout books.
As a writer and editor, words are literally my income. I know that every book has an author, and I know that writing is hard work. Authors deserve to be paid. That is why it really bothers me to see leaders sharing photocopies of badge inserts or websites advertising free downloads of scanned journey books. (While I don’t get paid to write this blog, it is an opportunity for potential clients to get to know me better.)
Let’s be honest and fair and admit that distributing bootleg scans of journey books and badge requirements constitutes theft. It is taking a person’s hard work without paying for it. Go ahead, argue “sharing” and “sisterhood” all you want, but if thieves share stolen goods among themselves, it does not make the theft acceptable. Would you walk into a Girl Scout shop, pocket a handful of badges, and walk out without paying? This is no different.
Let’s resolve to respect authority, including copyright law. The bootleggers know they are breaking the law, which explains why they try to shout down anyone who calls them out with nasty comments and name calling. Do we really have to put labels on every page, photo, design, etc. saying “Not yours. Don’t steal”?
I agree that the current program materials are a bit pricey, but I also realize that buyers are shouldering the cost of sales lost to illegal download sites. I don’t think the Girl Scout way is to sneak around and try to subvert the system.
Instead, let’s ask GSUSA to make program publications available digitally for legal, inexpensive downloading. The Boy Scouts already make many of their badge guides available through Amazon Kindle. Would you pay $1.00 for a PDF of a badge insert? Perhaps $5 for a digital journey book? Sign me up.
Tell GSUSA that you’d like to legally download publications for your troop. I’ve started a Facebook page for people who like this idea: Girl Scout Publication PDFs Please.
I think our founder would approve of this proposal. Juliette Gordon Low understood the importance of intellectual property rights and secured a patent for the trefoil symbol. She applied for the patent on November 23, 1913, and received it on February 10, 1914.
When Low decided to step down from the day-to-day operations of Girl Scouting in 1921, GSUSA asked that she surrender the patent to the organization. She agreed, but on her own terms.
Sixty years ago, on August 6, 1954, the Illinois branch of the American Legion denounced the Girl Scouts for “subversive and un-American influences.”
It was the latest battle surrounding the 1953 Intermediate Girl Scout Handbook.
When we last examined the allegations of Girl Scouts promoting communism, it was July 1954 and the debate had reached the US Congress. Florida radio personality Robert LeFevre had published an article in his obscure newspaper suggesting that the new handbook promoted a dangerous world order instead of patriotism for the United States. When LeFevre heard that a handbook revision was underway, he crowed that it was because of his complaints. In fact, the revision process was already well underway, so that a newer edition would be in Girl Shop shops in time for the start of the school year.
Several Illinois Congressmen inserted LeFevre’s accusations into the Congressional Record, but tempers seemed to calm on July 27 when Illinois Representative Timothy P. Sheehan read a statement from GSUSA President Olivia Layton explaining the revision process. Congress adjourned for a summer break and all seemed well.
Then came the bombshell.
On August 5, a reporter called the National Office from the Illinois State American Legion Convention. Edward Clamage, head of the Anti-Subversive Commission for Illinois, was about to introduce a resolution withdrawing American Legion support for the Girl Scouts. He had never examined the Handbook or bothered to contact a single Girl Scout, but he had read LeFevre’s article. The local council mobilized and gave him additional information about the revisions that already gone to press.
Clamage remained unswayed, and his resolution was presented on the convention floor on the evening of August 6.
He repeated, almost verbatim, the pro-United Nations accusations first leveled by LeFevre, but the “certain pro-Communist authors” accusation was new.
It referred to a review of the book First Book of Negroes by Langston Hughes that had appeared in the February 1953 issue of Leader magazine. In a memo to field staff, GSUSA summarized the criticism about the book review and explained that it had been “carefully read by our editors and members of our Program Department” and was selected for “its clear presentation of the history and accomplishments of the Negroe race, and its contribution to increased understanding of an important aspect of our American heritage and culture.”
However, Hughes had been called to testify before the Joseph McCarthy and the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations in March 1953 on charges of Communist sympathies. The Girl Scouts risked guilt by association.
After 90 minutes of debate on the convention floor, a minister got up and read Hughes’ poem “Goodbye Christ,” which includes these lines:
“Good-bye, Christ Jesus,
Lord, God, Jehovah,
Beat it on away from here now,
Make way for a new guy with no religion at all.
A real guy named ‘Marx, Communist, Lenin, Peasant, Stalin, Worker, me.”
Although that poem was written 20 years earlier, published only in Europe, and did not appear in the book reviewed in Leader, that recitation sealed the deal. The resolution passed.
The press had a field day, mocking the resolution, and numerous organizations came forward to defend the virtue of the Girl Scouts. The Chicago Daily News called the incident “berserk patriotism” and Eleanor Roosevelt agreed with one Legionnaire who’d shouted out, “How Screwy Can We Get?” National Capital Post 15 of AmVets told the New York Times that they had conducted their own investigation and determined, “They favor marshmallows and Gregory Peck. They oppose homework and mosquito bites. None of these are on the Attorney General’s (subversive) list.”
GSUSA National President Olivia Layton issued a response on August 9, rejecting the “unwarranted and unfair charges”:
Layton also had several telephone consultations with Irving Breakstone, who was elected commander of the Illinois American Legion at the convention and was embarrassed by the mess. Breakstone told the Chicago Sun-Times that he deplored “the method used to call attention to the mistakes made by the scouts’ leaders. It was unnecessary because the scouts themselves already were in the process of making corrections.”
Layton was concerned about the resolution going to the National American Legion convention set for August 30 through September 2 in Washington, DC. Breakstone assured Layton that the resolution would not reach the floor in Washington — but that would not be the case.
Over the 1954 Independence Day holiday, the attacks on the Girl Scouts spread to the US Congress, courtesy of B.J. Grigsby. Again, the Girl Scouts were accused of promoting communism and internationalism in the 1953 Intermediate handbook.
Grigsby, a Chicago businessman, had read the LeFevre article and reprinted it in his own vanity newspaper, the Spoon River Journal. He also wrote to GSUSA expressing his concern over the new handbook and noting that he had contributed to the Girl Scouts in the past. The response from Leonard Lathrop, head of public relations at GSUSA, did not satisfy him, so Grigsby contacted his Congressmen.
On July 2, Illinois Congressman Timothy P. Sheehan read LeFevre’s article into the Congressional Record. Sheehan added his own concern that one badge in the new Intermediate handbook “requires a knowledge of the United Nations, but nowhere among the merit badges did [LeFevre] find one that required the Girl Scouts to memorize part of the Declaration of Independence or a statement from the Constitution.” [Those were required for the My Government badge.]
Ten days later, Illinois Congressman Edgar Jonas introduced Grigsby’s response to LeFevre into the Congressional Record. While Grigsby dismissed some of LeFevre’s charges, he agreed with others. Jonas also included Lathrop’s response to a letter of concern sent to GSUSA by Grigsby.
After the accusations from the Illinois delegation, GSUSA mobilized supporters in Congress. At the request of GSUSA, Representative Robert Kean of New Jersey inserted an article into the July 21, 1954, Congressional Record written by Dr. Lillian Gilbreth, then at Rutgers University in New Jersey. Gilbreth, a member of the national program committee, was best known for her studies of time management in the household and as the inspiration for the book and movies, Cheaper by the Dozen. Gilbreth argued:
We cannot take comfort in the thought that everyone accepts us as spiritually minded, as patriotic, as trying to be constructive in every thought and deed. We must therefore reaffirm our beliefs, reiterate our pledges. As we think of our motto, “Be prepared,” we must be able to answer for ourselves for others the question, “Prepared for what?”
Today the world needs individuals and organizations prepared to meet the challenge of communism. As Girl Scouts we are prepared to do so because we are imbued with the responsibilities and the privilege of following our Promise and Laws day by day, as best we can. […]
What can communism really offer as it challenges all this? Nothing. What should Girl Scouts do to meet the challenge? Keep busy at our work of service with serenity of spirit. Try to attain the educated mind, the educated hands, the educated heart which will help us to keep our Girl Scout promise and prove ourselves assets to God, our country, and our fellow men. Girl Scouts try.
kean and gilbreth
The tide began to swing in favor of the Girl Scouts, with Indiana Congressman Charles Brownson introducing a rebuttal from Indianapolis civic leader John Burkhart on July 26. The next day, Sheehan seemed to backtrack a bit and read into the Congressional Record a statement from GSUSA President Olivia Layton outlining revisions already underway.
Another pro-Girl Scouts statement was made by Congressman Victor Wickersham of Oklahoma. In preparing this post today, I realized that I did not have a copy of his remarks. I searched the Washington Post online and, to my surprise, discovered that two years earlier, Wickersham had sold 20 acres of land to GSUSA for $30,000 — land that was used to enlarge the entrance to the Rockwood camp outside of Washington, DC.
But, as it turned out, the skirmish on Capitol Hill was merely a lull before an even bigger storm.
In part three, the American Legion escalates the controversy…
In September 1963, Girl Scouts changed from a three-level program to a four-level structure. The Intermediate program was divided into Juniors (grades 4–6) and Cadettes (grades 7–9). The restructuring was accompanied by the release of new handbooks for each level, as well as new badges, uniforms, and awards.
The Nation’s Capital Archives and History Committee has created a new exhibit to mark the 50th anniversary of that exciting program. Items are on display in the lobby of the Council headquarters at 4301 Connecticut Ave. NW. How many items do you recognize?
The handbooks, badges, and awards combined to create a framework of progression. One program, built on one foundation, would be adapted to four ages levels.
That foundation contained six basic elements, which are still followed 50 years later:
Dedication to the Promise and Laws,
Commitment to service,
Belief in girl-leader planning through the patrol system,